Seven months after his death in March, Hawking's last book, 'Brief Answers to the Big Questions' was released this week…
Seven months after his death in March, Hawking’s last book, ‘Brief Answers to the Big Questions’ was released this week – a compilation of the existential questions people often asked him, including whether there is a God. Lucy Hawking, 47, tells TOI how to read it was like having one last conversation with her father
Among the questions Stephen Hawking addresses in the book are the existence of God “No one directs the universe” , den langsigtede feasibility of life on earth (“inevitable that nuclear confrontation or environmental catastrophe will cripple earth”) and the possibility of time travel (“rapid space travel and travel back in time can not be ruled out”). Why was it important for him to ask the big questions?
The scope of his work was the universe. There is perhaps no bigger, grander subject so the big questions came naturally to him. Han visste at folk hadde en appetitt for svar på disse spørsmålene, og han følte at det var hans plikt som forsker og offentligt intellektuelt at give folk de svar de ønskede i et format de kunne forstå.
It’s not that he was hard to read before, but this book seems particularly lucid.
There is a lovely flow to the book that reflects the very logical way in which he set about giving answers. I think it’s because my father had so many years to perfect his ability to communicate with a non-scientific public, always simplifying, always seeking the most direct, most descriptive way to explain something, but also looking for creative and imaginative ways to frame arguments så at folk ville være i stand til at forholde sig til dem. He had this ability to visualize geometric shapes in his mind, which is quite rare. He taught himself that skill when he was unable to write equations because of his condition. Het hielp hem uitdrukkelijke abstracte concepten zo duidelijk.
Growing up with someone like him was obviously extraordinary, but what are the ordinary moments you remember?
It was extraordinary in terms of the fact that he was a scientific genius and a disabled man. At that time in the UK, disabled people were not so active or independent. He was a pioneer in that respect and the work that he did has served as inspiration to a number of people. Of course, I was a child and did not understand any of that then, so much of it was quite ordinary. Kan vi gå for en iskrem, kan vi spille monopoly, kan jeg ikke gjøre mitt hjem ̵
1; det slags som gjør opp familien livet. When I was young, he and I would share the newspaper over breakfast and I would fight with him over the section I wanted first. All those memories come back to me and make me laugh.
Some of his views – such as the dangers of a new race of AI-driven, genetically modified superhumans – have been with skepticism. What do you say to the skeptics?
Very often, something my father says becomes a generic headline which does not reflect the nuanced quality of what he says. In the book, he says if anyone stood to benefit from artificial intelligence, it would be him, a person with motor neuron disease. Han visste at fordelene ved fremskridtet af teknologi kunne bringe menneskeheden, men lød et forsigtighedsforhold om at gå i blind uden at have samtaler om etiske rammer og beskyttelse af mennesker.
He writes that history is really the history of stupidity and he is glad that people are now studying the future of intelligence …
(Laughs) That’s just that sort of classic Stephen Hawking’s turn of phrase, is not it? Men ja, hans største bekymring var så stort delt vi kommer til å bli på et tidspunkt da utfordringene er så globale og universelle. We worden steeds armer om samen te werken met elkaar. Han såg så mye vi ville tabe hvis vi alle blir lokalisert i bare å se hva som er fordelaktig for oss. If anything, this book is a call to unity. Han ville at vi skulle gå ind i fremtiden i en tilstand af internationalt samarbejde i stedet for at bli stadig mer fraktured og delt.